Let the battle of the shoot’ em upers begin!! Today we have a film scores telling the tales of a tight-lipped French (but somehow playing an Italian) hitman, a life and death battle for the future of mankind (all played inside an overblown video game), the “how many more characters can you add to an already bloated and dragging plot line? overlapping story of the Feds vs the Mob (basically this a boring version of Snatch), and well the self-explanatory flick called Shoot Em Up (hmm, wonder what that’s going to be about?). But since we’re examining the scores all the flying bullets and big ass guns are only as effective as the music driving the story. So who wins this showdown?? Find out after the jump…
Leon – Eric Serra, a composer who was ahead of his time when he scored this, was the perfect compliment to the introverted titular hitman. It was the brilliantly subtle French motifs to the main theme and the tender times between Leon and Mathilda that really resonate after the film is over. One element which seems to be his signature is his use of, what I can only describe as, percussion using porcelain bowls. This (as evidenced heavily in Goldeneye and many parts of The Fifth Element) was not only unique to but memorable as well. Also Serra uses some great classical guitar solo work here in many scenes and rolls that theme into an end credit song featuring the one and only Sting. How can you beat that?
The Matrix – As most people will agree, the most significant action scene was the lobby shoot out with music by the Propellerheads. However, the helicopter scene takes the cake as far as the musical score goes. The mighty horns of Don Davis here are likened to Howard Shore’s work on the Lord of the Rings films but are just a little less grand and epic in scale. What stands in the score as a whole is the near overuse of the orchestra’s brass section. While impressive and engaging it lacks a some depth. Repetitious to a point of boring, it still is an exciting enhancement to the jaw dropping action on screen. For all you Blu Ray owners, there is a “Isolated Score” option for the movie. I tell you, it can be just as impacting without the sound effects as with them.
(Favorite tracks: Bullet-Time and Anything Is Possible)
Smokin’ Aces – While trying to be a guy Ritchie doppelganger, as far as the film goes, I’d say they were spot on with concept but execution was severely lacking. The same can’t be said for Clint Mansell. A regular on Darren Aronofsky films, his style is unique as it is dynamic and I don’t think I could recognize a Mansell score unless someone told me it was his work. The shinning glimmer of hope in that lumbering movie made me want to rewatch it just to hear his music. The score and his talents speak for themselves really.
(Favorite tracks: Aftermath (Body Count) and Dead Reckoning)
Shoot ‘Em Up – A bit of a synthesizer and techno composer, Paul Haslinger is kind of the odd duck in this group. However that doesn’t make his work any less adrenaline fueled. Seeming to take some cues from the gritty feel of Robert Rodriguez in Sin City and Planet Terror, Haslinger’s score can similarly have an overwhelming feel to it which makes the gun fights almost unimpressive by comparison. Although if the action is going to be balls out, then I guess Haslinger is a good guy to have along for the ride…but only if a gunslinger like Rodriguez is unavailable.
With a playful sense of whimsy and a worldly feel to boot, Serra’s score feels timeless and does the best to help you get inside the head of the protagonist. A bit of a child himself, Leon is learning about the things he’s missed while being so focused on “cleaning”, that is pretty much everything in the world around him. The score doesn’t just highlight the uberly impressive “cleaning” scenes it also chronicles the maturation of Leon in a very short period of time. Even though he’s a little less in your face that Haslinger and Mansell, the true “shoot em up” winner is Serra.
Leon calls his guns “Eric” and “Serra”…